The house looked different in the cold light of day, with people surrounding it. A couple of bemused police officers had stood stupidly by the front gate, the sirens on their cars beeping weakly, lights flashing red. I could see straight through the kitchen window and saw the mess I had created: the broken furniture, the smashed glass and the blood.
Returning home after last night’s escapades, I had tried to sleep or eat or read or do anything to distract me. I didn’t feel guilty – not like the overwhelming regret I had felt over Copperfield’s death – but I needed something to distract me from the ugly empty feeling inside my chest. I even looked at pictures of Lorcan and Lysander, trying to live some feeling – but nothing came and when it did, they were wrong, like killing Featherby had changed something within me. I tried to read another of Lysander’s love letters, trying to find that similar sense of hatred and loathing that came with it, but I couldn’t find it. I looked a picture of Lysander - sitting alone on the cliff top outside Shell Cottage – and I felt a wave of emotion so huge I slammed the picture down on the table and left.
I had returned to the scene of the crime.
I had watched as the Aurors arrived, Scorpius before anyone else, sweeping dramatically through the early morning mist. I watched as he tried and failed to talk to the policemen – his furrowed brow, his shaking hands. He had wanted to shout at them, I could see that. I had heard his quietly whispered spell and watched as the police officers disappeared, apparently forgetting that they had important dentist appointments or they must pick up their grandmother from the station.
I had watched as Featherby’s body was taken away, zipped up in a black bag, not covered with a white sheet like Copperfield.
A couple of Muggles were hastily moved along and I saw Teddy, grave faced and serious, as he entered the house. My uncle Harry disappeared inside after him. Higgins appeared a few moments later, a heavy file clutched under his arm, and I wondered whether he thought this was connected to Lorcan or Copperfield.
I was the connection, but he didn’t know it yet. I had killed Anthony Featherby in cold blood. It was premeditated. There was no reason apart from the fact he had killed Lorcan and he had changed and ruined my life. He had framed Lysander and ruined his life, too. Featherby had to pay.
“Dominique, what are you doing here?”
I turned slowly, my eyes and senses moving lethargically from lack of sleep. Some nondescript Auror I used to work with had her hand on my arm and was looking at me sadly. My brain froze temporarily for a minute while I tried to figure out what to say or how to speak.
“Scorpius,” I managed to croak out. “I have to speak to Scorpius. Valerie told me he would be here.”
“I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait. Malfoy will be tied up here for a while, maybe even for the whole night.”
“I’m sure you’d like that.”
The woman took her hand off my arm and looked affronted, but I didn’t care. I crossed the street, ignoring a car that screeched to a halt just in front of me and dived into the barrage of people all around the house. People were taking photos, making notes, talking to distraught neighbours and conducting spells. I saw the broken face of the grandfather clock and the remnants of the armchair. It didn’t seem to faze me. I didn’t seem to worry. His blood on the material of the chair didn’t make me feel anything.
Congratulations, Mr Debole, your latest recruit.
I awkwardly scooted around people so that Teddy and my uncles and Higgins did not see me. I searched everywhere for Scorpius, in all of the upstairs rooms, before I found him outside in the garden, seated in an old deckchair, his head in his hands and a file open on his knee.
His head shot up, and once again I felt pity swell inside of me. His eyes were bloodshot, surrounded by massive grey bags. His hair was greasy and unkempt, his stubble a great shadow across his face. His robes were torn and stained. I hadn’t seen him in so long, not since he asked me to kill Noah, when he had born a striking resemblance to the ancestors on the walls of his manor.
“Scorpius, we need to talk.”
He nodded, rubbing his eyes. The early morning mist crept stealthily around him, over the junk that Featherby kept in his back garden: an old washing machine and a rickety table and chairs. A shed sat in the corner, moss and mould growing on its decaying wood.
Now that I was here, I didn’t know what to say. People had told me to come and find Scorpius, to knock some sense into him. I had tried yesterday: even gathered up the courage to go the dreaded Auror office and fraternize with Valerie as well as enduring the very likely possibility of seeing one of my overachieving cousins. I had sat through a sickening conversation with Teddy and Victoire so that I could find him, so that I could speak to him and try to comfort him. Everyone knew that something was wrong. Everyone knew that it was because of Rose. She even knew.
“Maybe I should start?” His voice was soft and gentle. He hadn’t shouted. I took that as a good sign. I nodded uselessly. I felt powerless, but I reveled in the fact that I was finally feeling something.
“I’m sorry about what happened,” Scorpius started, “I shouldn’t have asked you to do it. It was stupid and I was stupid.”
“It’s not your fault,” I said and he looked disbelievingly at me. “We all knew what you were going through… with Rose and everything. I expected something, but obviously not something that intense…”
“I’m sorry. I scared you.”
“You did. And you are,” I said.
“When I saw you at the office… I didn’t expect it. I wanted to come after you, to talk to you and tell you it was completely wrong of me to ask you to do… that.”
“It was wrong.” I hated how morally superior I sounded.
“I found out about you and the Deboles and what you did at Rose’s wedding… and it felt like everything fell into place, like that was the only way out of the situation.”
“You asked me to kill Noah.”
“You asked me to kill you.”
I saw Scorpius froze, lounging in his seat, and if people walked passed, it would seem that he was completely at ease. His pale hand flopped lifelessly over the armrest and the image haunted me. I felt sick. It was uncomfortable, having this conversation under the watchful eyes of dozens of trained Aurors, under the eyes of my family, in a quiet garden in the countryside. We were discussing murder and death so casually that I couldn’t deal with it. The emotions and feelings I had so lacked last night, when I was busy ripping my soul into two and taking the life of another human being, flooded back into me in great waves, and I couldn’t handle it. Happiness and excitement mixed with fear and guilt and revenge and grief, and it all proved too much.
“I won’t put you in that situation ever again.”
“I promise,” he replied.
Scorpius had closed his eyes and I wondered whether he had gone to sleep. We remained in silence for another moment. I pulled my jacket closer around me as the chill set onto my skin. Scorpius’ deck chair looked strange and out of place and I felt uncomfortable, standing over him. I could hear murmuring voices from the house as the dew underneath my feet soaked into my shoes.
“I found this,” Scorpius said quietly, leaning forward to hand me the file.
“What is it?” I asked, but he simply gestured for me to open it. I did, and felt my heart crash at full speed into my stomach. My name and face was splashed across page after page. There was mention of Henry Copperfield and the Deboles, of Mossbury Walton and Lysander.
“Where did you get this?”
“I found it in his room. In his desk,” he said quietly, but I couldn’t speak. The words wouldn’t come. Scorpius stood up and grabbed my hand, leading down me down the garden path, until we reached the rotten and dilapidated shed. A bird chirped noisily in a tree.
“Listen, Dom… you need to tell me what’s happening. I can get you help, work out a way of getting you out of there. You didn’t need to kill Henry Copperfield… they could have got someone to do it. Someone different. Please, Dom… come on…”
Featherby was working for the Deboles. That was the only possible explanations of all of the facts – why he had the file, how he knew about Rosalie, why he knew me. He was working for them. He had been in the same building as me for months. Lorcan’s killer, sweeping through the hallways of Mossbury Walton and I didn’t know and perhaps I would’ve killed him sooner if I did. It probably would have made murdering Henry Copperfield a lot easier. Practice makes perfect.
“Dom, come on. Talk to me.” His hand was on my shoulder now, and I could feel the sharp edge of the folder digging into my palm. “If the Aurors find out… you could be a suspect. You had motive. You wanted to keep it a secret and so you murdered Featherby too. You coming here was a bad idea.”
I stared at him. Tears pricked at my eyes and Scorpius looked scared that I might collapse around him. He placed his hands on my shoulders, holding me steady.
“Dom, come on.”
“Don’t you know?” I said quietly, conscious of the Aurors now moving around the back door. “Did you know he had killed Lorcan?”
“Dom, they didn’t tell me,” he stated, pressing his hands to his eyes and then running them over his stubble. “You knew, though.”
I nodded. A glimmer of realization flickered in Scorpius’ eyes. He took his hands off me, and I couldn’t help but feel like he was abandoning me, throwing me away, discarding me. I knew he was disgusted even though his face didn’t show it. He started moving erratically, trying to fold his arms or run his fingers through his hair. He tried to button up his robes frantically, in a vain attempt at acting normal, but couldn’t do it. His face was a mixture of indifference and rage and worry. I hated that I caused it.
“You killed him, didn’t you?” The first word came out loudly – a shout – but the rest as a whisper as he realised where he was and who could be eavesdropping. I stared at the floor in response but he already knew the answer. I heard his breathing quicken.
“Oh, Merlin,” he breathed, running his fingers through his hair and stepping away from me.
“He had killed him, Scor. He had killed Lorcan and framed Lysander. What else was I to do?”
He laughed at me: short and scornful. “Oh I don’t know,” he replied sarcastically, “perhaps leave it be? Let the professionals deal with it? Fair trial? Azkaban? You definitely don’t kill people, Dom. Having no soul is worst than death, isn’t it? And from the looks of you, you’re well on your way to having a whole array of wonderful horcruxes.”
“Scorpius, shut up,” I tried but he was gawking at me stupidly. He ripped the folder from hand, flicking through it. It took him several minutes before he calmed down.
“You were all over the place after Copperfield. You didn’t go out, you didn’t eat. You just sat there. A part of me was happy because you were so affected by it. I thought that would teach you a lesson.”
“I can’t tell you,” I replied honestly, looking at my feet, “I don’t know how or why this time was different, but it was.”
Scorpius grabbed onto my hand, pulling me closer to him, wrapping his arms around me and resting his head on top of mine. Affection. Closeness. Human contact. It felt wrong that the last person I had touched – the last person I had been this close to – was Featherby. I had stabbed him in the heart and now he was lying on a cold metal table somewhere. Dead. Lifeless. Passed on.
We stood there, locked in one another’s arms, for a moment or two, until someone came outside and called Scorpius’ name. We broke apart.
“Take this,” he said, forcing the file into my hand. “Destroy it. Burn it. Hex it. Throw it into a river. Do whatever you want with it, just…”
“Scorpius, I can’t ask you…”
“Get rid of it. I won’t tell anyone. It’ll be our little secret, won’t it?” He pushed a strand of hair behind my ear, planting a haphazard kiss on my forehead. “Don’t tell Rose. Don’t tell her about anything.”
“She’ll just fuss,” he said, smiling crookedly. Yes, I thought, she’d fuss and then kill me for ruining her wedding and then for potentially murdering her new husband. Great. Someone shouted his name again and he looked towards the house. “Go home. I’ll come after work and we’ll talk some more.”
“I can’t. You can’t.”
My brain tried to find a reason to stop him. I didn’t want him involved in this. He could lose his job if someone found out. He’d definitely lose Rose and so would I. There might be a criminal enquiry. My parents and my whole family would get involved.
“I don’t want you to think you’re alone in this.”
“I should be.” I wrapped my arms around his waist once again. “I’m sorry. I’ve ruined everything.”
“I thought Lysander did that,” he said jovially. His words rang out into the empty garden, and I smiled wryly.
“You should go. You’ve got work to do.”
“But I’ve found the killer, haven’t I?” He replied, a smile littering his face and it felt good to see it again. It didn’t matter that we were joking about being a murdering psychopath, as long as Scorpius was smiling. Maybe he’d go home and shave instead of coming to my flat and discussing how to save my life. I stood up and pressed my lips to his cheek, feeling his stubble bristle under my touch.
“Take care, Scor. I’ll see you soon.”
I watched him as he wandered slowly up the garden path, shooting me a lingering smile before entering the house. I gripped the file tightly in my grasp, ready to put it on the ‘the burn’ pile, along with my stack of Lysander’s love letters and a lot of newspaper articles about Copperfield’s death. I flicked through it. There was a copy of my fingerprints, a check-up sheet from the nurses’ office, a family tree. There were pictures of me around and about, going to the Leaky Cauldron or the Burrow or in the Ministry. It looked like the file that Debole had given me, filled with pictures and facts about Henry Copperfield.
Maybe they were going to pay someone to assassinate me.
Maybe they were going to kill me.
My hands started shaking, anger seeping into my bones. I gripped tightly onto the file in my hands, staring around the garden, wondering what I was going to do now. I could go to Scorpius for help. I could go to the Aurors for help. I raced up the garden path, stumbling on a loose paving slab, dropping the folder. The photos and parchment slid everywhere, and I dropped my knees to pick it up.
I would have been fed a small vial of purple potion, just like Copperfield.
I would have drowned in my own blood.
Fumbling with the papers and shoving them in my pockets, I stood up, staring at the small house, at the dirty and grimy windows in the early morning light. A single figure stood in an upstairs window, looking down onto the garden, onto me. Jasper Higgins stared at me and the moment seemed to last an eternity before he twitched the curtain shut.
He knew. He knew. He knew something.
I pushed through the crowd of people inside the house, barely glimpsing at the wrecked kitchen, the destroyed stairwell. I saw Scorpius talking to Teddy, laughing like brothers. He didn’t look at me, or even see me. Watching as Higgins traipsed down the stairs, I moved swiftly out of the door and onto the street.
Looking left and right, I tried to apparate, but I couldn’t, like my mind wasn’t working. I searched around the street. I was even tempted to go back into the house and drag Scorpius away with me. I tried again, and again, and again, but I couldn’t do it.
Higgins had walked out into the street and after seeing me, began talking in whispered tones to a young, burly looking Auror. He looked at me too.
They knew. The young Auror started walking towards me.
I started running. Pathetically, I started running. The young man could easily catch up with me, and for a moment, I enjoyed the monotonous routine of my feet slamming onto the pavement.
My breathing was heavy as I turned around a corner into a country lane. Dirty brown water splashed up my legs, and I gripped my wand. I slowed down, listening all around for a sign of life. Birds twinkled happily in the trees. A sheep bleated in a nearby field. The fog drifted in the cold air. Seemingly peaceful.
But then the Auror came sweeping around the corner, a flurry of robes and wand light, and streaked down the path towards me. I stumbled on my feet, pushing myself off the ground with my hands, and tried to run. They were going to catch me, just like Scorpius had said. They would charge me for the murders of Henry Copperfield and Anthony Featherby and the world would be right again. I would lose my soul and Lysander would be left with a disheveled Scorpius and a patronising Rose and a dead brother.
A jet of red light streamed passed me, barely passing my elbow, and I took a sudden left into a muddy field. My feet sunk into the grass and my breath caught in my throat. I turned, only to see the Auror gaining on me. He was only yards away now. If I slowed, if I tripped, he would get me.
As I watched my breath cloud in front of my face, the world seemed to slow to a crawl. My hair flew in the wind. The Auror’s fingers stretched out towards me, his face a perfect snarl of determination. The sun peeked out from behind the rolling hills, the sky a perfect mixture of purple and orange and white.
His wand was outstretched and I saw the stream of light before it hit me. I felt numbness and cold creep up my legs and into my chest, but before my eyes closed and darkness fell across my mind, I saw the Auror falling backwards and rolling down the hill. I saw the sweeping shadow of dark robes – the figure of my rescuer - and the sickening pull of apparition.
I fell into unconsciousness, but not before seeing the cold, grey eyes of Atticus Debole.